The Zimbabwe government wants to appoint governors to coordinate development in the country's two largest cities, Harare and Bulawayo. Opposition leaders are denouncing the move, saying it is an attempt to take power from the cities' mayors, both members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
Local government minister Ignatius Chombo told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that Zimbabwe's two major cities would soon have governors to coordinate development.
Mr. Chombo denied that the state-appointed governors would replace, or supersede, the authority of the two mayors. Harare and Bulawayo have mayors who came to power on an opposition Movement for Democratic Change ticket and both were elected with overwhelmingly majorities.
Even before this latest government announcement, the mayor of Harare, Elias Mudzuri, had complained that it was difficult to run the city because of state interference.
Mayor Mudzuri has also complained that Harare is dependent on suppliers who were appointed by previous pro-government administrations, and some of these suppliers have repeatedly failed to deliver goods, such as chemicals to purify Harare's recycled water.
Though the government claims the state-appointed governors will not interfere with the mayors, Mr. Mudzuri believes they would inevitably lead to a reduction in his executive powers.
That opinion is shared by John Makumbe, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe. Mr. Makumbe said the government is determined to neutralize all opposition strongholds. He said the ruling ZANU-PF party is particularly annoyed that it has little power in Zimbabwe's two biggest cities.